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20+ Festive Philadelphia Holiday Experiences in 2020

December 16, 2020

With one of the largest Christmas markets in the country, a pop-up market and ice rink at City Hall, a can’t-miss Macy’s holiday show, and dozens of other festive experiences, POPSUGAR cited Philadelphia as one of the top places that holiday-lovers need to add to their holiday travel list.

See below for a list of seasonal attractions, markets, ice rinks, and other holiday adventures to add to your 2020 winter to-do list. Remember: Stay home if you are sick, practice social distancing, and mask up when not eating or drinking.

1. Celebrate the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade (virtually)

Philly Santa Claus
Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrive at the 2019 Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

2020 would have marked the 101st annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade – the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country. Unfortunately, this year’s in person parade is canceled but the festive fun continues on the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Celebration, which will be broadcast locally on 6abc and streamed online at 6abc.com and across other streaming platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. Kick off the holiday season and look for glimpses at past parades and the traditional arrival of Santa.

2. Let a local restaurant prepare your holiday feast

Feast of the Seven Fishes from The Olde Bar. Photo courtesy of Garces.

Don’t feel like cooking your holiday dinner at home this year? Many of Philadelphia’s restaurants and caterers will be offering their own renditions of festive feasts for Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day for pre-order and pick-up. Garces Trading Company is offering a Chef-cooked Hanukkah dinner featuring matzo ball soup, crispy latkes, braised brisket and more. In Old City, a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes can be ordered for pick-up from The Olde Bar, Fork or Positano Coast, with a Christmas Eve dinner meal available to order from Amada. Talula’s Daily has a holiday brunch spread (along with other snacks, entrees, and treats) available for pre-order and pick-up, and Constellation Culinary Group is offering a holiday party in a box as well as their own holiday brunch package. The Wayward has a decadent seafood tower available and Di Bruno Bros. Catering can prepare a full feast for six complete with hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer, entree, sides, and dessert.

For more holiday offerings from a.kitchen, Aqimero, Oyster House and other local restaurants, click here. Additional restaurants will continue to offer outdoor dining as well as take-out, delivery and gift cards on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis.

3. Welcome winter at one of Philadelphia’s original five squares

Winter in Franklin Square. Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia.

Beginning November 19, historic Franklin Square will be transformed into a whimsical winter destination, complete with a festive mini golf course, charming carousel, and the popular Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show, which features over 100,000 lights throughout the park that glow, twinkle, and dance along to a playlist of holiday favorites each evening (shows are every 30 minutes from 5-9 p.m., daily, weather permitting through January 10). This season, Winter in Franklin Square will help keep guests safe by instituting limited capacities on attractions, encouraging social distancing, and sanitization stations throughout the park. The winter fun can be enjoyed daily through February 28 (closed November 26 and December 25) from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. To learn more and plan your visit, click here.

4. Admire Philadelphia’s official Holiday Tree

Each year, the City of Philadelphia’s Holiday Tree stands tall on the northern apron of the historic municipal building, featuring thousands of colorful, twinkling lights and an assortment of Philadelphia-themed ornaments and decorations (look for the Liberty Bell on the top of the tree). New additions to the holiday tree this year include two ornaments honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and the City’s commitment to equity and inclusion, as well as a message from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney thanking essential workers and front line medical staff who’ve kept Philadelphians safe during COVID-19. The tree will be joined by an art installation in the City Hall courtyard that honors Philadelphians whose lives were lost in 2020. The 50-foot-tall white fir is set to be illuminated during a special virtual ceremony on Wednesday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. exclusively on 6abc, and will be illuminated through the end of the year.

5. Enjoy a beloved Philadelphia holiday tradition online

A Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show in the Wanamaker Building features whimsical holiday scenes made of over 100,000 LED lights — including a 34,500-LED tree — that dance along to classic tunes from the historic Wanamaker Organ during daily performances. While the tree will still be illuminated with the organ playing daily, the holiday show will be moved online this year instead. Macy’s Santaland at Home brings this iconic holiday tradition — and an animated version of the store’s Dickens’ Village — to audiences around the world, available to be accessed anytime for free via the online portal. TIP: If visiting Macy’s to view the tree and organ in person, be sure to complete your holiday shopping and take advantage of tax-free clothing and shoe shopping in Philadelphia.

6. Shop at an authentic German Christmas Village

philly christmas village
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Christmas Village.

Another Philadelphia holiday tradition, the Philadelphia Christmas Village returns to LOVE Park and the northern apron of City Hall for another season of festive fun and plentiful shopping experiences. The pop-up market will open on Thanksgiving Day and run through Christmas Eve and will feature over 60 local artisans and makers selling hand-crafted goods. New this year, in the interest of health and safety, vendors will be facing the street around LOVE Park with ample distance between each booth. A one-way flow of traffic will also be enforced, and masks for all visitors and vendors are required. Don’t miss the Christmas Village Carousel, which will once again be stationed in the City Hall courtyard along with additional vendors. TIP: Crowds are lighter Monday-Thursday each week!

7. Ice skate beside City Hall…

ice skate in dilworth
The Rothman Orthopedics Ice Rink at Dilworth Park. Photo by M. Stanley.

One of two seasonal ice rinks in Philadelphia, the Rothman Orthopedics Ice Rink and its accompanying Cabin will open for the season on November 6 and run through February 28. To reduce crowds, timed skating tickets purchased in advance are strongly encouraged. The Cabin will feature an open-air layout this year to allow for increased air flow. Social distancing is also encouraged and masks are required (except while eating or drinking).

8. …then finish your holiday shopping at Dilworth Park

Photo by M. Stanley for Center City District.

From November 21 through New Year’s Day, the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market will join the ice rink and cabin in Dilworth Park, featuring over 50 local makers from the Philadelphia region. Alongside holiday-inspired crafts, gifts, and other goods, the market will feature food, confections, and local beer which can be enjoyed at seats throughout the park, such as those at the nearby Wintergarden. Masks will be required when not eating or drinking and social distancing is encouraged, with many of the market’s vendors also offering contactless payment solutions. To learn more about the market, including health and safety precautions, and to view a layout, click here.

9. Stock up on holiday gifts from local museums at discounted prices

barnes gift shop
The gift shop at the Barnes Foundation is just one of the stores participating in Museum Store Sunday this year. Photo courtesy of the Barnes Foundation.

Museum Store Sunday is November 29, prompting gift shops at many museums to offer special one-day-only deals on items. Though Philadelphia museums are temporarily closed, these special offers can still be redeemed via their online gift shops. The Barnes Foundation is offering 20% off regularly priced options online, and purchases of $50 or more from November 27-30 come with a free gift, while supplies last. The Independence Seaport Museum is offering 20% off entire purchases from its new online store from November 27-30. Other museums participating include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mütter Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Fabric Workshop and Museum, among others. For a full list of participating museums, click here. TIP: Be sure to grab a custom mask from one of the gift shops.

10. Be amazed as holiday lights bring City Hall to life

Center City District’s annual Deck the Hall Holiday Lights returns for the 2020 holiday season with a new format to reduce crowds in the interest of health and safety. What was previously a show with dedicated showtimes is now a continuous, evening-long series of festive projections on City Hall’s western façade, allowing visitors to enjoy the display throughout the evening and not have to worry about gathering in large groups. The beautiful digital projections, which seem to animate the historic building’s columns, windows, and sculptures in various holiday patterns and themes, will run 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday from November 23 through January 1, 2021, with music and sound effects added at certain periods throughout the runtime. For more information and to plan your visit, click here.

11. Immerse yourself in a 160,000 square foot wonderland in the sports complex

Photo by J. Fusco for Comcast Spectacor.

Philadelphia’s newest holiday experience, Winter on Broad Street: A Holiday Light Spectacular, sets up shop outside of the Wells Fargo Center from November 27 through January 3. The dazzling walk-through wonderland features 193 large displays illuminated by over 500,000 light bulbs, including a 25-foot reindeer, 20-foot ornament, and over 45 glimmering trees that form a magical glen. At the Broad Street Lodge, Holiday Spirits, Claus’ Kitchen, and Tinsel Towne Treats stands visitors can enjoy seasonal food and beverage options (think: warm cookies and spiked ciders). The Mistletoe Marketplace will feature hand-made goods and gifts from a collection of local artisans available for purchase, while performances and holiday tunes fill the air at the Tinsel Towne Square. Click here to view a full map of the space. Advanced tickets are required as capacity will be limited to maintain social distancing. Other health and safety guidelines will also be enforced, such as the requirement of masks while not eating or drinking. To learn more and to reserve your tickets, click here. TIP: Look for a special holiday photo station featuring ‘Gritty Claus’.

12. Have a historic holiday in Old City

christmas decor old city
Old City Holiday Window Contest. Photo by In Between Rivers.

Home to historic sites, independent shops and boutiques, and restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines, Philadelphia’s Old City District will celebrate the holiday season with Historic Holidays in Old City. Beginning November 28 with Small Business Saturday — when many of the locally-owned shops offering special holiday deals — the neighborhood will host over a month’s worth of festive events, including virtual holiday tree (December 3) and menorah (December 10) lighting ceremonies that will be streamed live to their Facebook page from the Betsy Ross House. From November 28 until December 13, over a dozen local businesses will participate in a Window Decorating Contest by adding festive decorations to their storefronts, prompting visitors to vote for a favorite online. Several Old City businesses will be offering at-home holiday experiences, such as a DIY cheesesteak kit available to pick-up from Campo’s Cheesesteaks and cake, cookie, and pastry kits available from Oui Pastries. To learn more about Historic Holidays in Old City, click here.

13. Shop and stroll through Northern Liberties’ Holiday Pop-up

glassworks pop-up
Eva E. Glassworks is just one of the local vendors participating in Northern Liberties Holiday Pop-up. Photo courtesy of Northern Liberties Business Improvement District.

For two weekends — November 27-29 and December 3-5, from 1-6 p.m. each day — over 15 local vendors will set up shop along N. 2nd Street in Northern Liberties for the debut of the neighborhood’s Holiday Pop-up. Holiday gifts, home décor, clothes, baked goods, dog treats and more will all be on sale inside and outside of eight retail locations along the street. Don’t miss the Snow Queen Brunch at the Igloos at Germantown Garden Grill each Saturday, which presents a family-friendly “frozen” experience where guests can enjoy a 90-minute brunch inside of a private, heated igloo that comes complete with a special visit and photo-op with the Snow Queen, as well as a souvenir and themed activity sheets for kids. To learn more about the Holiday Pop-up and to view a map of participating vendors, click here.

14. Marvel at a miraculous South Philadelphia light display

Each year, residents along the 1600 block of S 13th in Philadelphia’s East Passyunk neighborhood team up to create a truly stunning holiday display for visitors of all ages to enjoy, which Travel + Leisure regards as the best holiday light show in the state of Pennsylvania. Over 300,000 lights are strung along the street, crossing from house to house overhead while each building features their own unique holiday theme, such as The Grinch, A Christmas Story, and even Star Wars. Visitors are welcome to drive through the Miracle on South 13th Street, or mask up and walk along the block to admire each house in greater detail. On view from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. TIP: See these lights and others on display throughout the city by joining one of Philadelphia Urban Adventures’ Holiday Lights driving tours.

15. Relax by the fire, sip hot cocoa, and ice skate beside the Delaware River

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. Photo by M. Stanley for DRWC.

The annual Winterfest seasonal pop-up returns to the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River again this year, but with new health and safety restrictions in place. Once again, visitors will be able to rent skates and ice skate in the massive riverside rink, but this year there will be staggered, timed entry to control capacity and masks will be required while skating. All guests are strongly encouraged to purchase timed tickets in advance online. Also returning are the cozy cabins — available to rent for a set period of time for groups of up to six people — and The Lodge, which serves seasonal food and drink options from local vendors. All visitors are required to wear masks when not eating or drinking, and capacity limits will be enforced for The Lodge (but other vendors will be available outside). Winterfest will be open from November 27, 2020 through March 7, 2021. Click here for an up-to-date list of hours and to plan your visit.

16. Transport yourself to a winter wonderland at Longwood Gardens

Outdoor lights at A Longwood Christmas. Photo by H. Davis.

This Christmas, experience the spectacular outdoor wonderland that is Longwood Gardens during A Longwood Christmas. From November 20 through January 10 in nearby Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, stroll the 1,000+ acre property of Longwood Gardens outdoors to admire beautiful decorated trees and other holiday displays. Visit in the evening to see the entire property glow with thousands of carefully strung holiday lights. Timed tickets are available now online, with sellouts likely. TIP: Though the Conservatory is closed due to new health and safety restrictions, you can enjoy this video fly-through of the beautifully decorated space safely from home.

17. Celebrate the season with Big Bird, Elmo, and other Sesame Street characters

For a festive, family-friendly holiday experience, take a short trip north from Philadelphia for Sesame Place’s A Very Furry Christmas Celebration, November 21 through January 3. The amusement park is decorated for the holidays with twinkling lights, decorations and a 30-foot tree that projects animations as part of a memorable light show that will delight visitors of all ages. For tickets and more information, click here.

18. Enjoy an enchanted garden railway display at Morris Arboretum

holiday train display morris
Morris Arboretum's Holiday Garden Railway photo by P. Meyer.

Morris Arboretum’s popular Holiday Garden Railway Display features a quarter mile of track with buildings all made of natural materials (bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, acorns, dried flowers, seeds and stones) to form a miniature landscape with rivers and buildings that are exact replicas of the original including Independence Hall and other Philadelphia-area landmarks, all decorated for the holidays, November 27 through December 31. On Saturday and Sunday evenings from 4:30-7 p.m. beginning Thanksgiving night and running through December 27, Holiday Garden Railway Nights allow visitors to enjoy the display in a festive, illuminated environment.

19. Warm up with hot chocolate and festive cocktails in East Market

The Wayward is offering hot chocolate and cocktails along Chestnut Walk in East Market this holiday season. Photo by In Between Rivers.

Home to the new Canopy by Hilton hotel and its accompanying American brasserie, The Wayward, Center City’s East Market development will turn into a winter wonderland this season. Along East Market’s Chestnut Walk each Saturday from November 28 through December 19, visitors can enjoy hot chocolate and cocktails from The Wayward’s portable truck (and then sip them besides one of The Wayward’s firepits) as well as a 20-foot-tall holiday tree and other festive decorations, a Mural Arts window display, live jazz music, and more as part of Holidays at East Market. While in the area, be sure to enjoy the offerings from nearby vendors and restaurants, including Federal Donuts and Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. For up-to-date information and performance schedules, follow East Market on social media.

20. Stream a holiday concert at home

The Philly POPS, the largest standalone pops orchestra in the nation, is presenting its annual A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season virtually this year, with the concert available to stream for free on the orchestra’s website from December 18 through January 1. The seasonal showcase will feature spirited renditions of holiday classics by the POPS alongside Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez and energetic pianist Charlie Albright, as well as choir performances by The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, and The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. To learn how and when to watch, and to stream performances from years past, click here.

21. Bring the family together for a virtual program from the National Museum of American Jewish History

National Museum of American Jewish History photo by Barry HalkinHalkin Photography.

The National Museum of American Jewish History’s annual Being ___ at Christmas event is going virtual this year, with a full slate of digital programming on December 25 including live musical performances, on-demand educational activities, at-home art lessons, and more festive, family-friendly fun. New this year, the museum is offering wintry treat packages made in collaboration with caterer Neuman’s Kitchen that can be ordered for pick-up or delivery (Philadelphia-area only) to be enjoyed during the virtual event. To learn more about Being ___ at Christmas, click here.

22. Join an “Elf on the Stealth” walking mystery tour of Peddler’s Village

xmas peddler's village
The shops and restaurants of Peddler's Village are adorned with thousands of twinkling lights each holiday season. Photo by RC Taylor.

Navigate the charming shopping town of Peddler’s Village while on a holiday mystery tour alongside Mrs. Claus as she looks for her missing Elf on the Shelf among the festively decorated storefronts and beautifully illuminated trees. Before or after the tour, enjoy dinner at select Peddler’s Village restaurants with a 10% discount. Tours are available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from November 20 through January 10. For tickets, click here. TIP: While in Peddler’s Village, don’t miss the confectionery creations on display as part of the annual Gingerbread House Competition & Display (November 19 through January 9).

23. Discover holiday cheer in Chestnut Hill

holiday shopping chestnut hill
Photo courtesy of Chestnut Hill.

Home to 200 retailers, including many independently-owned boutiques selling a variety of goods such as toys, antiques, home goods, clothes, and more, Chestnut Hill makes for a must-visit holiday shopping destination. Each Wednesday in December, the district will host its beloved annual Stag & Doe days, which feature extended store hours and holiday specials at participating retailers and restaurants. New for 2020, Stag & Doe events have been extended into a day-long experience, allowing visitors plenty of extra time and space to explore the district while avoiding crowds. As you move from one festively decorated storefront to another, you’ll enjoy holiday music played by a brass quartet and may even bump into Santa Claus along the way. If shopping works up an appetite, there are 29 appetizing restaurants nearby, offering a wide range of cuisines, seasonal menus, and safe indoor or outdoor dining options. On December 9 and 23, visitors to Chestnut Hill can enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides through the neighborhood (on a first-come, first-served basis – departs from 8532 Germantown Avenue). TIP: Don’t miss local favorite Bredenbeck’s Bakery, offering festive gingerbread, reindeer, and cookie cake kits alongside their robust selection of treats.

24. Tune in online for a festive boat parade

parade of lights seaport
Photo courtesy of the Independence Seaport Museum.

The Independence Seaport Museum’s annual Parade of Lights — which features a series of boats sailing up the Delaware River while decked out in holiday lights, wreaths, and other decorations, along with an appearance from Santa Claus — will not happen in person in 2020. However, the museum is committed to keeping the tradition alive and will instead host a virtual viewing party for a pre-recorded parade on Saturday, December 12 at 5:30 p.m. The video will be broadcast on the museum’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts. To learn more about this year’s Virtual Parade of Lights Presented by Louise and Peter Havens | McCausland Foundation, click here.

25. Catch holiday classics at the Drive-In at the Navy Yard

Through January 3, 2021, the Philadelphia Film Society’s Drive-In at the Navy Yard will allow families to enjoy a full slate of holiday classics, family flicks, and even several new films from the safety and comfort of their vehicle at the South Philadelphia shipyard. Festive, seasonal screenings include National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, and A Christmas Story, among others, with new releases such as Wonder Woman 1984 set to be shown as well. For a complete line-up of screenings and to purchase tickets (advance tickets are required), click here. For safety guidelines, ticketing information, and more info, click here.

26. Reminisce about holiday celebrations of years past

Several of Philadelphia’s most memorable holiday experiences have been canceled for the 2020 season in the interest of public health and safety, however you can still look back on previous parades, performances, and fireworks displays online. One such experience is the reenactment of General George Washington’s now-iconic crossing of the Delaware River, typically held annually on Christmas Day in Washington Crossing Historic Park just a short drive from Philadelphia. In lieu of the in person event this year, the park will be sharing a special pre-recorded crossing on their Facebook page and YouTube on Christmas Day.

Another missing holiday experience is the annual New Year’s fireworks displays along the Delaware River Waterfront. Traditionally, the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing hosts two spectacular fireworks demonstrations on New Year’s Eve — one earlier in the evening, another at midnight — set to dramatic music while visitors skate around the Winterfest ice rink below. A video from last year’s display can be viewed on the Delaware River Waterfront’s Facebook page.

mummers parade
2020 Mummers Parade. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

The annual Mummers New Year’s Day Parade will not happen in 2021, but you can look back on videos from 2020’s parade on PHL17’s Facebook page and website. The parade is considered one of the oldest folk parades in the nation and typically features thousands of Philadelphians decked out in elaborate costumes who perform their way along Broad Street from City Hall to South Philadelphia.

Cover photo by J. Fusco for Comcast Spectacor.

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